Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The fantastic 82 km long Allahabad Bypass on NH2

I have had the good fortune of driving a car on the Autobahnen / Motorways / Expressways of Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, U.K., etc. I have also travelled on many Freeways / Expressways / Interstate / Turnpikes in the USA. I have no hesitation in declaring the Allahabad bypass on NH2 as ‘world-class’.

The Allahabad Bypass is a superb 4-lane dual carriageway, 82 km long, passing mostly through sparsely populated areas or agricultural land. Whereas most of the new NH2 (Golden Quadrilateral) more or less follows the same old route as Sher Shah Suri’s Grand Trunk Road, the Allahabad Bypass follows a completely new route through land newly acquired by NHAI for the purpose. As during my last drive on this stretch, I did not come across a single petrol pump and hardly any dhabas. Toll collection has still not started here and any car or bike enthusiast can enjoy high speed driving here free of cost.

Let me share with you the pluses and minuses (in my opinion) of this wonderful stretch of road :

Pluses :

Ø Excellent construction.

Ø Smooth concrete surface throughout.

Ø Four-lane dual carriageway (like the rest of GQ).

Ø As it is passing through wilderness, there is negligible local traffic (like rikshas, bicycles, motorcycles, hand-carts, bullock-carts, tractors, auto-rikshas, pedestrians, etc.).

Ø Between the two sides of the dual-carriageway, there are very few interconnecting ‘cuts’.

Ø A large percentage of this new stretch is fenced off from both sides – so hardly any stray cattle or stray humans.

Ø The stretch of 82 km through wilderness and negligible local traffic is adequately long to give one a nice thrill for 40 minutes or so.


Ø There are far too many curves on this stretch. This handicap is mitigated to some extent because most curves are gentle.

Ø There are too many culverts on this stretch (necessitated due to the terrain). This handicap is again mitigated to a large extent by the excellent build quality which has ensured that the joints between the road and culverts are smooth and bump-free even at high speeds.

Where is it?

Ø When you are driving from Varanasi, you will find the starting point of the Allahabad Bypass exactly 93 km after crossing the Ganga bridge at Varanasi.

Ø When you are driving from Kanpur, you will find the starting point of the Allahabad Bypass exactly 149 km after the Kanpur city exit point at Chakeri.

I could maintain a steady speed band of 120-140 kmph on this stretch without feeling that I was taking any undue risk.

But the Bombay-Poona road, IMHO, is still the best stretch in India (in my limited personal experience, as I am yet to see many other new highways in India) for high speed driving because :

Ø It has very long straight stretches.

Ø It is much wider (6-lane).

Ø It is much better insulated from stray cattle / humans.

Ø The two sides of the highway are far apart mostly, so there is no question of any ‘cut’ or vehicles moving in the wrong direction.

As I have written in an earlier post on this blog, Bombay-Poona road is the only highway in India where I have done 160 kmph on two occasions – once on a friend’s Hyundai Accent Viva and later on my own Swift VDi.

The burning highway at Kujju (near Ramgarh)

As everyone knows, illegal coal mining is rampant in Jharkhand and is carried out openly with total complicity of govt. officials and politicians. The illegally mined coal is always transported on bicycles because, apparently, there is no law against it!

Coal being transported on bicycles at Chutupalu Ghat near Ramgarh

Here is a statement (published in The Telegraph, Jamshedpur edition, dated 06.01.10) made by the CMD of Central Coalfields Ltd. : “Each cycle carries 300 to 400 kg of illegally mined coal and there are an estimated 18,000 cycles carrying coal all over the state. It translates to 7,200 tonnes of illegal coal entering the markets and some sponge iron units everyday”.

See the quantum of coal in one bicycle!

Illegal mining often leads to collapse of the mined cavities and major underground fires. During mid-2009, a portion of the NH33 near Ramgarh suddenly caved in and massive plumes of smoke started emanating from the fissures. Investigations revealed a huge underground coal fire. Thereafter, crores of Rupees of taxpayers’ money was spent by various govt. agencies and the fire was claimed to have been put off. However, during my recent trip to Kanpur and back I saw smoke still coming out of the fissures in the ground near Kujju (see picture below).

Smoke coming out of the ground adjacent to the bypass at Kujju

As far as the NH33 is concerned, a ‘diversion’ of sorts has been made for small vehicles and heavy vehicles have to take a long detour. This diversion is about a km long and starts 15 km after Ramgarh (at a village called Kujju) when one is going towards Hazaribagh. It is completely unpaved and has some steep slopes. I have driven through this bypass several times over the last 6 months or so. Initially, it wasn’t too bad but is now becoming more treacherous because some heavy vehicles have also started using it (obviously, by bribing the police) and their wheels have cut deep furrows in the unpaved and narrow path making it more problematic for small vehicles. Erosion of the path has also deposited a thick layer of dust on the road which starts flying and creates visibility problems whenever any vehicle passes on this road.

Thick cloud of dust creates visibility problems. Accidents are common. But who gives a damn?

Because there was no elected government in Jharkhand for many months, many projects were on hold. Now that the people of Jharkhand have once again entrusted the ‘governance’ of this state to a convicted murderer, projects (including a new stretch of NH33 between Ramgarh and Hazaribagh away from the underground fire zone) should start soon because projects are one of the best ways to make money!

Jamshedpur to Kanpur and back

My wife and I needed to attend the wedding of a nephew in Kanpur and I, always on the lookout for a long-drive opportunity, deliberately procrastinated on buying the train tickets till the car option became a fait accompli !

Even with an average of 22 km per litre of non-premium diesel in my Swift VDi, AC 2-tier travel by Indian Railways works out cheaper than car travel for two people. Only if three or more people travel together, car travel makes economic sense. Apart from the fuel cost, there are substantial additional expenses on board and lodging (hotels) during road trips involving one or more night halts. The point I’m trying to make here is that my long-drive decisions are not economic ones. It’s simply my passion for driving which makes the additional cost, additional risk and a goodly amount of irritation with the unruly Indian traffic worthwhile.

This was my third visit to Kanpur in my Swift VDi in two years. So why do I treat Kanpur almost as a suburb of Jamshedpur (though these two cities are about 900 km apart) as far as car trips are concerned? Mainly because the road is excellent and driving on it is fun. NH 33 from Jamshedpur to Barhi (via Ranchi, Ramgarh and Hazaribagh) is presently in a reasonably good shape and NH2 from Barhi to Kanpur (part of the Golden Quadrilateral project) is superb.

I could comfortably maintain 80-100 kmph on NH33 and 80-140 kmph on NH2. The best stretch was the Allhabad bypass on NH2 on which I’ll write a separate post. The Swift VDi once again performed admirably without a single problem. I love the torque and power of the Multijet engine, especially at low engine RPM. At anything above 1300 RPM or so, the car lurches forward like a wild beast at the slightest pressure on the gas pedal. Another thing I really like about this car are the powerful brakes, so essential in the badlands of India where any vehicle, animal or sub-human may suddenly decide to get on a collision course with you without any warning.

With the steady improvement of Indian roads, car suspensions are generally subjected to relatively less punishment nowadays. However, even on GQ one suddenly comes across some deep potholes or undulations and if one is doing high speeds there isn’t enough reaction time and the suspension gets subjected to huge impacts. On non-GQ highways it is common to find broken stretches everywhere in India. Another pain in India is speed-breakers – they appear without any warning and some of them are designed to be axle-breakers more than speed-breakers. Often, local people / administration put these up overnight without any signage or markings, usually as a knee-jerk reaction to a fatal road accident. After 26,000 km on my Swift I have no hesitation in saying that its suspension is quite good and far better suited to Indian roads as compared to my earlier cars (Maruti 800, Premier 118NE and Maruti Esteem).

Speed-breakers to watch out for on this route

1) The most horrible speed-breakers (4 of them) are at a place called Mandu on NH33. Mandu is 23 km from Ramgarh (towards Hazaribagh).

2) There are another 4 speed-breakers just after Hazaribagh as one is proceeding towards Barhi.

Let me now furnish some more details of our Kanpur trip for the benefit of others planning a similar trip :

Day 1 (while going) : Drove 476 km from Jamshedpur to Mohania and put up in Hotel Kaimur Vihar (phone : 06187-222822) of BSTDC. Mohania is in Bihar, quite close (24 km) to the U.P. border.

Day 2 (while going) : Drove 407 km from Mohania to Kanpur.

Day 1 (while returning) : Drove 625 km from Kanpur to Barhi (where NH2 joins NH33 in Jharkhand) and put up in hotel Highway Inn (phone : 06543-266319).

Day 2 (while returning) : Drove 260 km from Barhi to Jamshedpur.

Some statistics

1) Total distance clocked during Jamshedpur-Kanpur-Jamshedpur trip: 1796 km

2) Average fuel consumption over the entire distance of about 1800 km: 22.50 kmpl (using non-premium diesel; nil AC use; 2 persons; light luggage; includes about 100 km of city driving; 1700 km of highway driving includes hundreds of km at 100-140 kmph)

The tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Sasaram (Bihar). He made significant contribution to building / renewing the original Grand Trunk Road

Distances measured by car’s odometer :

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Namkum rly. crossing : 128 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Kantatoli Chowk, Ranchi : 131 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Ramgarh : 172 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Kujju bypass : 187 km (bypass about 1 km long)

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Mandu (4 huge speed-breakers) : 195 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Hazaribagh (Circuit House) : 223 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Barhi Chowk : 259 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to NH2 (Barhi) : 260 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Dobhi : 320 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Aurangabad : 381 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Dehri-on-Sone bridge : 404 to 407.5 km (bridge 3.5 km long)

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Mohania : 476 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Naubatpur (Bihar / U.P. border) : 500 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Varanasi Ganga bridge : 539 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Allahabad bypass starting point : 632 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Allahabad bypass ending point : 714 km (bypass length : 82 km)

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Rooma (Toyota showroom) : 861 km

Jamshedpur (Sonari) to Kanpur entry point (“Chakeri Indl Area 2” signboard) : 863 km

Kanpur entry point to Rama Devi chowraha, Kanpur : 5 km

Sunrise near Hazaribagh (Jharkhand)

Some more pics taken during this car trip may be seen at